Boris Johnson vowed on Sunday to stay on as prime minister of the United Kingdom even if he fails to secure a deal to leave the European Union, saying only his Conservative government can deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 no matter what.
 
At the beginning of his party’s annual conference in the northern city of Manchester, Johnson is rallying his party with the “do-or-die” message that he will deliver Brexit by the end of October, with or without a deal.

But there are hurdles to clear, not least of which is what Johnson calls “the surrender act,” the law Parliament passed to  force the prime minister to request a Brexit delay if he has not secured a deal with Brussels by an Oct. 17-18 EU summit.

Johnson again declined to explain how he plans to circumvent that law and deliver on his Brexit promise, deepening 
uncertainty Britain’s biggest trade and foreign policy shift for more than 40 years.

“People can feel that this country is approaching an important moment of choice, and we have to get on and we have to  deliver Brexit on October the 31 … I’m going to get on and do it,” he told BBC television, in an interview also touching on his ties to an American businesswoman who allegedly received money and favourable treatment because of their friendship during his time as mayor of London. 

Asked if he would resign to avoid having to ask for a Brexit delay, Johnson said: “No, I have undertaken to lead the party and my country at a difficult time and I am going to continue to do that. I believe it is my responsibility.”

Johnson, shown at at the reopening of Parliament on Wednesday in London, told BBC on Sunday: ‘I have undertaken to lead the party and my country at a difficult time, and I am going to continue to do that. I believe it is my responsibility.’ (Parliament TV via Reuters)

Opposition lawmakers have been highly critical of Johnson’s reference to “the surrender bill,” saying his language is  stirring even more division in a country that has remained split since the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Though the option of bringing a vote of no confidence in Johnson has been mooted in some quarters, Labour’s education policy chief Angela Rayner said the party wants to “get no deal off the table” before it does anything else.

But time is running out on efforts to avoid a potentially chaotic departure from the EU, which many businesses say could  hurt the economy and tip the country into recession.

Health Minister Matt Hancock used the start of the Conservative conference to announce billions of pounds in spending for hospital projects across England, part of a plan by the ruling party to make good on some of the pledges made during the referendum campaign that Johnson helped lead.

Labour also used its conference to launch new policies, including plans for a four-day working week, but has yet to back Johnson’s calls for an election, fearful he will lead Britain out of the EU without an agreement before any such poll is held.

Though the option of bringing a vote of no confidence in Johnson has been mooted in some quarters, Labour’s education policy chief, Angela Rayner said on Sunday the party wanted to “get no deal off the table” before it did anything else.

But time is running out on efforts to avoid a potentially chaotic departure from the EU, which many businesses say could hurt the economy and tip the country into recession.

Proposals coming on Ireland border 

The government is expected this week to present proposals aimed at overcoming the main stumbling block in talks — the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. So far, the two sides have failed to agree how to prevent the return to a hard border if a any future deal fails to maintain frictionless trade.

Johnson said he is still hopeful of securing a “good deal,” but added he would not pretend it will be easy.

“It is certainly true that other EU countries also don’t want this thing to keep dragging on, and they don’t want the UK 
to remain in the EU truculent and mutinous and in a limbo and not wishing to cooperate in the way that they would like.” 

“There is a strong view across the EU that it is time to move on.” 

Johnson denies wrongful dealings with model

Also during the BBC interview, Johnson was asked about his ties to tech entrepreneur and model Jennifer Arcuri, Johnson sought to suggest that political motivations were behind the decision Friday by the Greater London Authority to refer a conduct matter to a police watchdog agency.

The matter arose from a Sunday Times report saying Arcuri was given 126,000 pounds (about $205,200 Cdn) in public money and privileged access to trade missions to the United States, Israel and Asia that Johnson led as mayor, even though her fledgling business had not yet met eligibility requirements for such trips.

“Everything was done in accordance with the code … and everything was done with full propriety,” Johnson said Sunday.

When pressed again by BBC journalist Andrew Marr, Johnson added: “There was no interest to declare.”

It’s been a tumultuous week for a leader who has only been in the job since July.

– Boris Johnson

In just the last few days, the U.K. Supreme Court declared Johnson’s attempt to suspend Parliament illegal, and he cut short a trip to the United States, racing home to face the House of Commons, where lawmakers greeted him with cries of “Resign” He then lost a vote on a normally routine matter: a request to adjourn for a week so Conservatives could attend their conference.

Questions were raised about the 55-year-old Johnson’s links to Arcuri, now 34, who set up a cyber firm in East London after moving to the capital seven years ago. 

Even as Johnson visited North Manchester General Hospital on Sunday to talk about his government’s plans to build 40 hospitals, his efforts failed to change the subject.

“Let’s be absolutely clear. I am very, very proud of everything that we did and certainly everything that I did as mayor of London.”

He said the current London mayor, Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party, “could possibly spend more time investing in police officers than he is investing in press officers and peddling this kind of stuff.”

The independent office, which oversees police complaints in England, was asked to consider if there were grounds to investigate Johnson for misconduct in public office.  The authority said Friday it had a “statutory duty” to record the matter because Johnson served as police commissioner during his 2008-2016 tenure as mayor.